Last-minute goal lifts Bruins over Thomas, Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Reilly Smith scored to snap a tie with 59 seconds remaining in the third period as visiting Boston defeated its former Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Tim Thomas and Florida, 3-2, on Thursday.
Patrice Bergeron won an offensive zone faceoff as the Bruins played the puck behind the net before it squirted out in front. Smith alertly backhanded a shot from the inner edge of the left circle between the pads of Thomas for his first goal of the season.
Daniel Paille and defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored first-period goals and Tuukka Rask turned aside 27 shots to improve to 8-1-0 in his career versus Florida.
David Krejci collected his team-leading fifth assist on Hamilton's power-play tally, which snapped an 0-for-12 drought with the man advantage for the Bruins.
Kris Versteeg scored midway through the second period and Jesse Winchester forged a 2-2 tie after netting his first goal since December 2011. Thomas finished with 37 saves for the Panthers, who opened their season-high six-game homestand by falling into their second three-game losing skid.
After Boston scored twice in the first period, Versteeg converted Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau's touch pass out of the corner before wristing a shot from the right circle past Rask at 12:32 of the second.
Winchester knotted it up with six minutes remaining in the third period after Bruins captain Zdeno Chara fumbled the puck in front of Rask after a defensive zone draw, allowing Winchester to chip it over the netminder's extended left pad.
GAME NOTEBOOK: A two-time Vezina Trophy winner and 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient with Boston, Thomas underwent a messy divorce from the club and opted to sit out the 2012-13 season. After signing with Florida, the 39-year-old played in his first game since exiting with a groin injury against Philadelphia on Oct. 8. ... Paille got to Thomas early after streaking up the left wing before chipping the puck over the veteran goaltender's shoulder at 3:45 of the first period. Hamilton doubled the advantage just over nine minutes later after skating along the blue line before unleashing a shot that deflected off Florida D Brian Campbell and past a screened Thomas. ... Three of Hamilton's six career goals have come on the power play.